Thursday, August 26, 2010

Breast abscess - my own true account

PART 2 – THE SURGERY & THE AFTER EFFECTS


The surgery turned out to be, nothing to be scared of. I have to admit, I was scared as I changed into the gown especially for surgery, lied down on the metal bed, and was pushed to the operation theatre. I was even more scared when they put me underneath all the lights, right next to metal tables where you can see all the medical equipment, just like in House. Then the surgeon told me to relax, as he put a mask over my face. I don’t even remember getting drowsy. The next thing I know, I woke up on the metal table, but all the lights were gone. I don’t feel any different than before and I wondered, is it over? What am I doing here? Then two nurses came over and began pushing my bed to my room, and I saw my husband sitting there watching tv.

The first day after the surgery went by drowsily, as I was still on painkillers. The affected breast was totally wrapped up in bandages which the nurse called dressing, so I could only express milk from my right breast. I was a bit worried because I don’t know how this surgery would affect my milk production, but I know that I still need to express to avoid any more engorgement. I had some milk stash in the freezer and about 10 bottles of unfrozen milk, which I think should be enough to last for my baby until I was discharged. Only the next day a nurse changed the dressing to expose just enough skin and the areola so that I can pump.

The surgeon later told me that the incision was 4 inches long and was quite deep because there was a considerable amount of pus. I shuddered to think I have 4-inch scar on my breast. Oh dear.. In the morning I was due to be discharged, the surgeon gave me more painkillers to knock me out so he could change the dressing. I was discharged in the afternoon after being told I was to come in twice weekly for dressing change.


Photo courtesy of http://www.spotlighthealth.com/

And so, the emotional rollercoaster began. Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t fully healed from the pain of childbirth and hemorrhage, now I have another painful body part to add to the group. Oh, and did I mention that the incision was not stitched up? That was the purpose of the dressing, to absorb all the milk that leaked out, while letting the incision heal by itself from the outside in. Close to the dressing change day, I already smelled like sour milk. Pumping was a pain in the **s. The bandages were quite wide and it covered almost the whole underside of my breast. So, to pump, I have to press the breast shield harder into the breast tissue (which is partially covered with the bandages) in order not to break suction. And, because of the leaking milk, the most I can pump out of my left breast is about 1 oz, which is downright depressing.

In addition to that, I have to be careful not to strain myself and pull at the arm and shoulder muscles, because damn, it hurts. I was too traumatized to try and breastfeed, even from the unaffected right breast, because I was worried that my baby might accidentally knock the bandage with his cute little arms or legs. Even breastfeeding while lying down on my side hurts as it puts pressure on the incision, so I thought I’d just stop breastfeeding for a while and just give him expressed milk in a bottle, hoping to God that he won’t develop nipple preferences for the bottle.

This wasn’t as easy as I thought, especially when it came to night feedings. I didn’t want my milk supply to drop, so I’d have to pump in the wee hours of the morning too. I was pumping about 10 times a day at the time, I was thinking of having the breast shields permanently stuck to my nursing bra. (The only bra I can wear is FabulousMom’s Sarah Sleep Bra, so I bought 4 of them!) Luckily, my husband bought a mini bar fridge to put next to my bed (thanks so much, honey!), so I can easily wake up in the middle of the night and warm up a bottle of milk, instead of going downstairs to the main fridge. So every night before I went to bed, I would prepare at least 3 bottles of milk ready to be warmed up in a jiffy. I would pump before going to bed, wake up to feed him when he cries, then when he’s done and dozed off, I would pump. Instead of breastfeed by demand, I would pump by demand. Same difference, really. I was doing all this on auto-pilot, like a pre-set robot. But robots don’t get tired, whereas I was left exhausted and cranky due to the lack of sleep.

Then there was twice weekly dressing change (which was done painkiller-free), which I totally despised, but totally necessary. So I gritted my teeth and wiped my tears all the way, and butted my head through them all. The doctor would take off the old bandages, clean the incision, poke it here and there, put some ointment on it, cover it up with new bandages and pronounce me good for another week. For the first three weeks, I came out of the doctor’s office with my face tear-streaked, my eyes red and my fists all white because I was clenching them so hard. My husband tried to arrange to come home on every dressing change, but he couldn’t exactly come home twice weekly. So when he couldn’t come with me, he would call me after the doctor visit with words of love and encouragement, which helped a lot.

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